Home > Uncategorized > UFC on FOX 5: Henderson vs. Diaz

UFC on FOX 5: Henderson vs. Diaz

Group Shot

Negotiations have taken a positive turn towards ending the NHL lockout, but there will be no Hockey Night In Canada again this Saturday.

Craving a fix to fill that void? Look no further than Sportsnet, which will be airing UFC on FOX 5 — a stacked mixed martial arts card headlined by the lightweight (155-pound) title fight between champion Benson (Smooth) Henderson and top-ranked challenger Nate Diaz — live from KeyArena in Seattle, Wash.

This televised show, celebrating the one-year partnership between the UFC and FOX, rivals most recent pay-per-views for quality and quantity of talent. It features several highly anticipated scraps with title implications, plus others that promise to be crowd (and couch potato) pleasers.

The co-main event pits former light-heavyweight (205-pound) champion Mauricio (Shogun) Rua of Brazil against fast-rising contender Alexander (The Mauler) Gustafsson of Sweden in an international matchup.

Speaking of rising contenders, the third-to-last fight will showcase Canada’s Rory (Ares) MacDonald — often hailed the future of the welterweight (170-pound) division — against B.J. (The Prodigy) Penn, a living legend who has held belts in two divisions (welterweight and lightweight) and is returning from a brief retirement. To many hardcore MMA fans, that past-versus-future theme holds the most intrigue of any matchup, not to mention the bad blood that’s brewed between the combatants.

The main card will likely start off with a bang as Mike (Quick) Swick squares off against Matt (The Immortal) Brown in a battle of welterweight strikers — or rather sluggers. The preliminary card, also to be shown on Sportsnet, has its share of barnburners (on paper) that should set the tone for an exciting night of fights.

Personally, it’s been more than two months since my last blog entry and UFC predictions, so while I plan on posting with more regularity going forward, be forewarned this submission could show signs of ring rust.

Then again, Georges St-Pierre showed no ill effects from his 18-month layoff in handily dispatching Carlos Condit a couple weeks back, successfully defending his welterweight title for the seventh time.

So let’s see if I can perhaps pick up where I left off as well, starting with the main event and working my way down.

Henderson Diaz close-up

Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz

 

The lighter weight classes never seem to disappoint and I fully expect this pairing to put on another fun fight — granted they’ll likely have a tough act to follow with the fireworks expected beforehand.

Henderson is bigger and more powerful, but Diaz is dangerous in all aspects as evidenced by three straight finishes — all submissions — during his current winning streak since dropping to lightweight following a lopsided decision loss to MacDonald at welterweight.

Henderson (17-2), currently on a five-fight winning streak, used his size advantage to score consecutive decision victories over former kingpin Frankie Edgar, dethroning the undersized champ and then thwarting his efforts again in a title defence this past August. Diaz (16-7) most recently choked out Jim Miller in May to secure No. 1-contender status and set the stage for Saturday’s showdown.

My take: I see Henderson controlling Diaz with his wrestling and outmuscling him, basically imposing his will and better executing his game plan en route to defending his belt. I don’t think Diaz’s punches-in-bunches will faze Henderson, so his only chance is to lock up a submission by catching hold of his opponent’s limbs. Henderson is a smart, technical fighter, so I’m picking him by unanimous decision.

Shogun-vs-Gustaffson

Mauricio Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson

 

I don’t know what to expect from these two. It’s a step up in competition for Gustafsson, but I think he’s ready for this kind of test. Whether he’s ready to pass it and inch closer to challenging Jon (Bones) Jones, that remains to be seen.

Rua (22-4-1) has been in a lot of wars over the years and he’s about as battle-tested (and proven) as they come. He’s been fighting professionally for a decade and, at 31 years old, might be in the midst of his final run toward reclaiming the UFC belt he lost to Jones last March. Since then, Rua has won two of his last three, the third result being a draw with Dan Henderson in the 2011 Fight of the Year.

Gustafsson (14-1), meanwhile, is on the upswing. He’s won five straight since his only loss to Phil Davis in April 2010, but he hasn’t been in the Octagon with the same level of fighters as Rua. For the most part, Gustafsson has been facing (and beating) middle-of-the-pack, gate-keeper types such as Matt Hamill, Vladimir Matyushenko and, most recently in April, Thiago Silva via decision.

My take: It’s time to see what Gustafsson is made of and I’m honestly torn over how he’ll handle this opportunity. By all accounts, he’s confident and determined to succeed, yet I can’t help but think he could be in over his head against Rua. Gustafsson is tall and lanky, somewhat similar to Jones in body type, but Rua is a powerhouse and devastating striker who always goes for the kill. I think Rua will add another victim to his resumé by night’s end, via second-round TKO.

Penn-MacDonald

B.J. Penn vs. Rory MacDonald

 

MacDonald picked this fight and now he’s got it. Delayed from September’s Toronto card until Saturday in Seattle due to MacDonald suffering a severe cut over his eye during training camp, both have been chomping at the bit to settle this score and prove themselves.

Obviously Penn (16-8-2) has little to prove in the grand scheme, with his legacy already cemented as a pioneer and one of the sports’ all-time best pound-for-pound fighters. But Penn is still only 33 years old and, despite losing three of his last five fights and settling for a draw in another, he’s out to silence his critics and prove he’s not “washed up.” A driven and dedicated Penn is always dangerous — and downright scary — for any opponent.

The 23-year-old MacDonald (13-1) won’t be intimidated. In fact, he’s been taking an intimidator approach in the build-up, threatening to “smash” and “destroy” Penn — punching his ticket back to pasture, while propelling himself into a household name and perhaps into the title picture.

MacDonald, formerly a Kelowna resident who now trains out of Montreal’s famed Tristar gym, has gone on the record as refusing to fight teammate St-Pierre, who echoes that sentiment. A couple more MacDonald wins and one of them will likely have to move to middleweight to avoid that clash.

First things first, MacDonald will have his hands full with Penn. Once known as The Waterboy, MacDonald (4-1 in UFC) is constantly maturing and developing into a force to be reckoned with. He’s won three straight since his only loss to Condit in June 2010, a fight MacDonald was winning through two of three rounds.

My take: Penn is a prickly opponent and offers more challenges than Mike Pyle or Che Mills — MacDonald’s last two TKOed stepping stones. I wouldn’t necessarily say Penn is past his prime, but MacDonald is more certainly entering his prime and has the potential to not only defeat but finish Penn. Listening to MacDonald’s training partners, it sounds as though GSP’s protégé is not one to be messed with. MacDonald’s skill-set will speak for itself sooner than later and I’m expecting more of a statement win over Penn than either of St-Pierre’s past triumphs versus their Tristar nemesis. I’m predicting a star will officially be born, with MacDonald pounding out a first-round TKO.

 

Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown

 

Both fighters have compelling back stories, overcoming illness, injury and other personal demons in years past. They have got off life’s canvas more than once, and will now try to put each other down for the count.

UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva are counting on these two to deliver a toe-to-toe display to open the main card — and, based on their track records, there’s no reason to expect anything less.

Swick (15-4, with 8 TKOs and 8 first-round finishes) and Brown (15-11, with 8 TKOs and 6 first-round stoppages) have only combined for 10 decisions in 45 career fights, so don’t expect this tilt to go the distance.

My take: With all due respect, I’m anticipating a glorified street fight with Swick and Brown meeting in the centre of the cage and trading blows until somebody hits the deck. Flip a coin as to who that will be, but my gut says Swick is left standing, emerging victorious by first-round TKO.

 

Preliminary Card

 

Yves Edwards vs. Jeremy Stephens = A lightweight fight that could also produce Saturday’s Knockout of the Night, or Fight of the Night if they are able to absorb each other’s punishment until the final horn. I’m picking Stephens (20-8) by TKO over the more experienced Edwards (41-18-1).

 

Raphael Assuncao vs. Mike Easton = A bantamweight (135-pound) fight that could go either way, but I’ve been extremely impressed with Easton (13-1, 3-0 in UFC), so I’ll go with him by decision over Assuncao (17-4, 2-1 in UFC).

 

Ramsey Nijem vs. Joe Proctor = A couple of TUF alumni squaring off in hopes of climbing the lightweight ladder, I’ll literally flip a coin on this one and go with Nijem (6-2, 2-1 in UFC) by decision over Proctor (9-1, 1-0 in UFC).

 

Daron Cruickshank vs. Henry Martinez = I actually like this lightweight fight and think it could be the sleeper on this card. Both guys are exciting and like to push the pace, so it should be entertaining one way or the other. For the sake of picking a winner, I’ll go with Cruickshank (11-2, 1-0 in UFC) by decision over Martinez (9-2, 1-1 in UFC).

 

Tim Means vs. Abel Trujillo = Another lightweight bout that I’m, admittedly, unfamiliar with the combatants and haven’t watched any of their previous fights. Trujillo (9-4) is making his UFC debut and that might be overwhelming against Means (18-3-1, 2-0 in UFC), who I will pick by decision again.

 

Dennis Siver vs. Nam Phan = This featherweight (145-pound) scrap really seems buried, or at least lost in the shuffle. Not too long ago, Siver (20-8) was considered a UFC contender at lightweight and Phan (18-10) has a penchant for action-packed fights. Expect a stand-up war, with Siver perhaps the more technical striker. I like Phan, but I’m picking Siver by third-round TKO.

 

Scott Jorgenson vs. John Albert = Both these bantamweights have lost two straight, albeit to their division’s top-end talents. I’ve always liked Jorgenson (13-6, 2-2 in UFC), he always brings it and there’s never a dull moment when his Mohawk enters the Octagon. He’ll have a sense of desperation for this one, despite his losses coming to interim champion Renan Barao and a Fight-of-the-Night performance against Eddie Wineland. I think that will fuel Jorgenson to a dominant decision victory over Albert (7-3, 1-2 in UFC).

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